Are you ready for the Real Food Challenge?

Are you ready for the Real Food Challenge?

During the past several weeks, I’ve participated in roundtable discussions in New York City on sustainability and the importance of preserving natural resources, attended a sourcing summit at Yale, and been present when our Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy  publicly signed the Real Food Campus Commitment. These events all shared a common goal: to find better ways to provide healthy, sustainable, and delicious food choices to our customers.

We are all concerned about climate change and how food choices and modern food production impact the health of our planet. In the United States, more than half of the consumer food dollar is spent on meals consumed away from home.  As public concern over the impact of our food choices grows, consumers are challenging the foodservice industry and culinary professionals to make more-informed choices about what they serve to customers. To address this challenge, food industry professionals are spending more time focusing on the type and the quantity of ingredients they source.

UMass Dining is ready to take a leadership role in this challenge. Among American college campuses, UMass stands out as a green leader and innovator. As the second-largest campus dining operation in the nation, we have the responsibility to serve healthy food that both tastes good and supports sustainable food production. Several months ago, we demonstrated our stance on sustainability by planting a permaculture garden. This past September, the newly renovated Hampshire Dining Commons became a showcase for healthy, sustainable food on campus. Now we’ve underscored our efforts with the Real Food Campus Commitment.

The Real Food Campus Commitment challenges universities to shift their food budgets away from industrial farmed ingredients and processed food and towards real food. The organizers behind the challenge define real food as food that comes from “local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources.” By signing the commitment, universities pledge to purchase 20% of real food annually by 2020.

To date, UMass is the largest school to sign the Real Food Campus Commitment. We have a very ambitious and clear goal: To purchase 20% of real food annually well before 2020. The sooner, the better. Presently, we offer cage-free, local eggs at all of our facilities. We also purchase almost 30% of our produce locally. Our students are running the Real Food Challenge Calculator and providing ideas and recommendations for ways to source more Real Food.

We hope to set an example for other New England campuses to follow. The more schools that sign the commitment and shift their budget to purchase more local and sustainable foods, the more affordable and accessible real food will be for all of us.

Thanks to all of you for your continued support. Together we will make the world a better place.

This is Ken Toong, Thank you for keeping UMass at the top. You can contact Ken at [email protected]

Blog Category: 
Author Name: 
Ken Toong
Author Title: 
Executive Director Auxiliary Enterprises

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE/UMASS DINING OPERATIONS FAQ: UMass Dining is committed to the health & safety of our students, faculty and staff. We are following guidelines set by our local, state and national health officials; we routinely monitor our dining facilities; we have implemented additional sanitation measures to ensure customer safety; and we are in constant contact with the campus community.